Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gear Review: Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled by Nick Symmonds


I have been a Nick Symmonds fan for years. I believe that he first appeared on my radar in 2008, when I was living in Colorado without a TV, and was constantly refreshing LetsRun or Flotrack or whatever website I was using looking for results. That year, Nick won the US Olympic Trials and made it to the semifinals at the Beijing Olympics. Since then, Nick has gone on to run a sub-1:43 800m, finish fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games, and become track and field's most outspoken advocate for athlete rights. I was super excited when I heard Nick was penning an autobiography, and now that I have it in my hands, I present to you my review of Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled.


Life Outside the Oval Office chronicles Nick's journey from a young cross-country runner who hated running and only joined the team to impress a girl to a Division III athlete who's constantly butting heads with his coach to a two-time Olympian in the 800m. One fact that becomes evident throughout the book is that Nick was always an advocate for whatever cause he believed in. This autobiography provides a fascinating and remarkably candid look into the life and mind of Nick Symmonds. Nick pulls no punches here in his discussions about religion, his college coach, and (of course) USATF. His honestly is refreshing, especially in a world where people are too often punished for speaking their actual feelings.

Life Outside the Oval Office is a quick, easy read. I was (and still am) partway through A Clash of Kings when this showed up in the mail, and though I'm not the kind of person who normally tries to juggle multiple books at once (at least not books for leisure reading...it's not uncommon for me to have multiple textbooks and research articles going at the same time), I figured that, at 256 pages, Nick's memoir would be a quick read. I was done in three days, even with schoolwork piled on like mad. The writing is very simple, to the point that you can be half-distracted and still know what's going on. Not that you will be distracted...Nick writes with the same charisma that shows through in his interviews, and he keeps it interesting by combining plenty of details about both running and his personal life. At times, I found the writing to be almost too simple, but that's really my only complaint.

Obviously, at its core, Life Outside the Oval Office is a book about Nick's running career. There's plenty of information about Nick's running, including details about some of his more important races, as well as his life as a professional athlete, which delves into things like his sponsorship change and going from the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club to the Brooks Beasts. However, Nick also includes stories about his life outside of running: his love life, his rabbit Mortimer, his date with Paris Hilton, his fight against the USATF and political advocacy, his company and marketing himself, his Beer Mile record (which I guess also falls into the running category), etc. Nick also talks about some of the struggles he encountered along the way, including injuries and the temptations everyone deals with at college. The book is really split into two distinct parts, where the first half is about Nick's development from a youth runner into the athlete he is today, and the second half gives an inside look into the sport of professional track and field. However, those parts come together to form the coming-of-age story of Nick Symmonds.

Big thanks to Nick Symmonds and Brooks for the autographed copy!

Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled is a fun, easy-to-read book that gives an honest look into both Nick Symmonds' running career and his life outside of running, as well as an insider's perspective on professional track and field. It's no Running with the Buffaloes (but few books are), and the writing is a bit simplistic at times, but it's certainly a fun book that'll keep your attention. If you consider yourself a Nick Symmonds fan, Life Outside the Oval Office is practically required reading. On the other hand, if you don't consider yourself a Nick Symmonds fan, there's always the chance that Nick's memoir might turn you into one.

Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled retails for $25 for a hardcover, though it can be had for less on Amazon. There is also an excerpt available on Spikes.

Full disclosure: Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Nick Symmonds, Brooks, or anyone else.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Becki,

    I'm also a Nick Symmonds fan. I discovered him back in 2008 also. I periodically watch the 800 meter U.S.trials final race where the three Oregonians placed 1, 2, and 3 on YouTube for motivation. Thanks for the info. I'll probably get his book.

    Ken

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